Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cults on TV

I don't know if I should thank Scientology or Mitt Romney, but America is paying more attention to cults these days. MSNBC is airing a three-part series on cults. You can watch the first video of the Manson Family documentary here.

What I'm actually excited about, though, is the treatment of cults in popular TV shows. Last season Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" had an episode in a cult. While I think they got the cult leader wrong, they got the followers right, and I think the writers made a conscious effort to portray them as misguided rather than stupid or evil.

Last week "Bones" had an episode dealing with the Amish. I'm not saying that the Amish are a cult, but they are an isolationist religious sect. My friend Ananda was raised Mennonite (the "modern Amish") and then, suddenly, her mom moved them to Florida to work for my grandmother's cult and live in her trailer park. While a lot of cult members started buying up mobile homes for a couple years there, by no means were they the majority. The majority were drunks and teenagers and potheads and white trash and old retirees. It's a trailer park. So Ananda went from Amish to completely out of control rebellious teen. The culture shock was way too much, and I have to wonder if that's the case for all kids going through Rumspringa.

The best done and most exciting was last night's episode of "Lie to Me". I won't give it away, but I do strongly recommend my readers watch this episode. It deals with issues of kids on cult compounds, home schooling, battered women, and that weird creepy charisma that makes a cult leader's charm.

I'll go write up a non-video post next, but I just wanted to be pleased for a moment that the world is paying attention, and even starting to get it right. People join at their lowest, thinking it's a family or a community or a better way of life, not knowing it's a cult. And then they feel trapped. We have to help them get out. We can't make victims solely responsible for reporting crimes, abuse, and neglect.